Facing a Job Search in the Age of Pandemic

Work Setting: Career Development

Amanda Ngola

As social work students prepare to enter the job market and seasoned social workers have been laid off, our changing economy has created a complex situation for all of us. On the one hand, there has never been a better time to be a social worker. We see the devastation that the pandemic has created and we tap into our compassion, and the skills we have garnered through the years, to address it. We are trained critical thinkers and change agents. Our awareness of the effects of inequality compel us to take action and we have been strengthened by our education and practice experience.

But like everyone facing uncertainty, we are too. The pandemic has stirred in many of us the same fears and hardships. We may be wondering, how do I face a job search now? Where can I land professionally in this quickly changing market?

This is where I fall back on the mantra repeated by professors in my MSW program…Social Workers Are Leaders. We Can Do Anything.

And you know…it’s kind of true…

Our skills are highly transferable to a multitude of settings. Every day, in any work or field environment, we practice analytical thinking, collaboration, communication, problem-solving and relationship-building. Google “top skills desired by employers” and you’ll see that these are all in high demand.

Let this encourage you.

Change and career development is something that we should all engage in throughout our professional lives. For some it may feel more salient right now, and the good news is that there is abundant support available no matter your individual circumstances.

For example, the UW College of Letters and Science offers career services for current students, and the UW Alumni Association offers services for alumni. These offerings range from mock interviews, resume review, creating an awesome LinkedIn profile, and networking events. The School of Social Work offers a job board on our website, and the university routinely connects students with alumni all over the country. Check out these resources for current students and alumni.

Here are a few more ideas on ways to move forward:

1. Take stock of your strengths, interests, and goals. What would you enjoy doing? What settings and populations match well with your strengths? What do others identify as your strengths? What do you feel most passionate about? What gives you energy and makes you feel excited? What are the needs in your community? How might your strengths align with those needs? Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box.
2. Network. Sometimes networking gets a bad rap because people incorrectly associate it with being superficial or using others. But in reality, networking is a two-way street where both parties can benefit from the mutual connection. It’s also one of the best ways to find out about professional openings. Networking involves both telling others about what you are interested in and helping those searching connect with others who could be of service. It might involve informational interviews to understand deeper information about a new setting, or it might involve simply meeting other professionals in-person or on social media. Never discount good old fashioned volunteering, as it can also lead to meaningful connections that help you learn more about a particular setting or build particular skills.
3. Brush up on the latest trends. Rules and expectations change around resume writing, cover letters, and job searching methods. It pays to get expert advice on how to make yourself stand out in a competitive market. There are job coaches and abundant online communities for this type of skill development.
4. Get out there! Expand your comfort zone and give yourself a chance to shine. The bottom line is that the world needs you. Now, more than ever!